Hooke & his Seal

Is there a portrait of Robert Hooke?

When Robert Hooke died, he was buried in St Helen’s Church, London.  Later, in the 19th century, his body was disinterred and put in a communal grave, and so is lost.  There is no known portrait of Robert Hooke.  There is an image which commonly appears, but it is in fact the Dutch scientist Jan Baptist van Helmont.

It may be that no painting of him was ever done.  Hooke records in his diary that he went with Robert Boyle to the portrait artist Mary Beale.  However, there was only one visit and Hooke, who kept meticulous records of his finances, made no mention of paying for a painting.

There is a document in his birthplace on the Isle of Wight to which is attached a seal in red wax with a man’s head. 

 Hooke's Seal

The document is a land transfer which also carries his signature: 

Robert Hooke's signature

It seems that this was his personal seal as it is not used on any other documents in the County Records Office.  Keith Piggott has pointed out, following his open research, that it shows a similarity to the sculptured head of Aristotle (384-322 BC). 

chapter: Aristotle / Early Readings in the Philosophy of Science

This image could have appealed to Robert Hooke as, like Hooke, Aristotle was a polymath. 

Robert Hooke’s Seal is held by the County Record Office on the Isle of Wight, UK.